Next Generation Retail with Renee Hartmann

This week’s podcast guest Renee Hartmann is the co-author of the Bigeye Book Club selection for March, Next Generation Retail: How To Use New Technology To Innovate For The Future. In this episode, Renee discusses how retailers and brand marketers can embrace new technologies to respond to consumers’ changing demands. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 25 percent discount on Next Generation Retail at by using the promo code BIGEYE25 at the checkout.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Renee Hartmann: I think there’s quite a lot that can be learned from looking at the east and some of the innovation and excitement happening there in the retail sector. It is starting to filter into the west now, of course there’s cultural nuances with each one of them, but I think the core is keeping retail as entertainment.

Adrian Tennant: You are listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. As part of the Bigeye Book Club, in partnership with publisher Kogan Page, today’s episode focuses on our featured selection for March, Next Generation Retail: How To Use New Technology To Innovate For The Future by Deborah Weinswig and Renee Hartmann. Written with both digital-first and physical retailing in mind, the book presents ways in which retailers and brand marketers can respond to consumers’ changing demands and expectations by embracing new and emerging technologies. I’m delighted that our guest today is Next Generation Retail’s co-author, Renee Hartmann, who’s also the founder of CLA, a research and strategy consulting firm that advises consumer brands on their international expansion. Her firm’s clients include household names, including Giorgio, Amani, Fendi, and Yves Saint-Laurent. Renee has worked as a brand owner, retail operator, consumer researcher, and branding and market entry strategist for over 20 years. To discuss some of the key concepts in Next Generation Retail, Renee is joining us today from her office in Lisbon, Portugal. Renee, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Renee Hartmann: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here today. 

Adrian Tennant: So Renee, can you tell us a bit about your work with CLA and the types of clients you work with?

Renee Hartmann: Sure. so I’ve been working with CLA, I started the company about 10 years ago, and have been working with a number of brands, to help them expand internationally. So we do a lot of east to west, west to east, helping brands go into the Asian market, helping Asian brands come into the US and European market. And we tend to work with a lot of consumer brands, so working with people like L’Oreal or Coach, or Fendi, those types of brands, helping them engage with consumers in a different market. And increasingly, we’re working with a lot of Asian brands, particularly in the beauty sector and consumer sector, helping them go into the US and Europe. So it’s a lot of cross-cultural communication, and very much focus on the retail sector, whether it’s e-commerce or physical retail. 

Adrian Tennant: How did you meet your co-author, Deborah Weinswig? And what prompted you to write Next Generation Retail Together?

Renee Hartmann: Sure. Uh, so Deborah and I met, we both had lived in Asia for quite a long time. I was living in China and Deborah was living in Hong Kong. so we met over some dim sum in Hong Kong and,kind of had a shared love for retail and consumer brands. so started talking several years ago, back when we were in Asia. And I would say over the pandemic, we started talking a lot more just kind of a, I think shared experiences during the pandemic and kind of, uh, really got to connect more. so that was sort ofwhat prompted us to spend more time together. And, I think, when we were approached to write Next Generation Retail we really had a similar approach to the way we thought about retail and thought about kind of,future casting, if you will. So that sort of enabled us to come together, from a kind of an author, perspective.

Adrian Tennant: Deborah’s based in New York City, which is where her firm, Coresight Research is based. And you are in Lisbon. So what did the writing process look like for you both?

Renee Hartmann: Sure. So we did a a lot of Zoom calls. I would say. you know, a lot of, uh, phone calls and, We were writing actually, last year. So we started in the spring and wrote during the summer. So it, it also coincided with a lot of travel. So at some points I was writing, I did interviews from a sailboat writing on my laptop,in the boat. I was at a friend’s, 50th birthday party in Hawaii and they had pictures of me of furiously writing in the background. So, uh it was a lot of kind of shared interviews. Um,and that’s the great thing about, I think during the pandemic is so many video calls and phone calls, just became normal.

Adrian Tennant: In Next Generation Retail, you explore many aspects of the future of retailing, which you summarize in the three by three by three rule. Renee, can you explain the rule and how it helps readers navigate the major themes in your book?

Renee Hartmann: Yeah, I mean I think when we started looking at the book,we really first started with the consumer and coming off the pandemic, how has the consumer changed? you know, one of the chapters, Deborah and I went through our own personal experiences during the pandemic and how that changed us as a consumer. And I think that’s one of the things, we hope readers will take away is thinking about how have you changed Your consumer preferences and habits, and I think all of us did. So I think, we started at the consumer as the core, and you know, how both the pandemic and then just changing, preferences and needs and technology is shaping consumer preferences. And as a result of that we really came up with kind of this framework of, uh, three by three by three. And so the way we think about it is, retailers have three new things to sell, they have three new ways to sell them and they deliver them in three new ways for the consumer. So we could talk a little bit about each one, but you know, when we talk about three new things to sell, those are actually new products that retailers are able to sell. It’s not just about products. They have new things they can sell, new ways to deliver them to the consumer from a channel perspective. And then the consumer expectations are really changing in three new ways. So I can talk a little bit about each one of ’em, but that’s the way that we thought about it.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s talk about the first of your three rules, new things to Sell. Now, last year it felt like new retail media networks were popping up every week. You have a chapter devoted to this in your book, but for anyone unfamiliar with RMNs, could you explain what they are and how you foresee them affecting brands’ marketing strategies?

Renee Hartmann: Yeah, so retail media networks, what it really does is it turns the retailer into the media network itself, right? So if you think about you know, say like a grocery store or even things like using Instacart, which a lot of us use over the pandemic. it turns the retailer into kind of, the media platform itself. Soyou know, when you think about it, the retailer is the one who has the consumers. The consumers come in, whether it’s physical retailer, whether it’s online retailer, and they’re providing data to the the retailer understands, what they’re purchasing, what types of, products they considered, and then they also have the ability to promote different products to them in a personalized way. So one way I think about it, probably the way that I had the most experience with it was using Instacart. when I go on Instacart all the time, I see, Instacart knows what I’ve purchased before from that retailer. those products are promoted to me first. There’s new products that are suggested to me that are according to my liking. They’re not just random things that are chosen to me. And I find myself, using the products that they recommend all the time because they are things that I like. So I think it. You know, kind of puts the power away from,traditional advertisers, like even things like Facebook and Instagram, and puts the data and the consumer interaction in the hands of the retailer. So it’ll enables the retailer to come up with some new, revenue platforms so they’re able to actually sell media. you know, they can replace the advertising for brands and it allows brands to have access to data that they didn’t have from, say, Instagram or a Facebook. Um, this is really a retailer who knows what people buy, and they have a lot of data about the consumer and themselves.

Adrian Tennant: Well if they haven’t already, what are some of the factors that retailers need to consider if they’re thinking about establishing a media network?

 we talk to retailers about this all the time, and I think the first thing that retailers really consider is, how do I do this in a way that’s not invasive to my customers? I don’t wanna,disenfranchise my consumers. I don’t wanna make them feel like I’m selling to them. So I think the most important thing for retailers is to really figure out how can I do this in a way that’s nuanced? And doesn’t make my customer feel like I’m selling their data or that I’m taking advantage of them. So I think that, the way that we’ve seen it really work well is by just what I was just saying in terms of personalizing the information. So it’s something that feels helpful to youversus feeling like I’m being sold at and given something that I don’t want. the other thing that I think retailers consider a lot of is how to anonymize the data. So it’s not that they’re providing customer data away to brands, but they’re providing insights. so I think those are probably the two key areas. the other thing from a retailer standpoint, where we usually tell people to start, thinking about it, is a multi-brand retailer versus a single brand retailer, they’re gonna have two very different strategies for retail media network. So multi-brands are probably the first place to start. if you are a multi-brand retailer and you’re not doing retail media that’s probably the, the top priority. I would say in terms of, where you start to develop that strategy and how you bring that to life 

Adrian Tennant: And what about brands? In what kinds of ways can they, or their agencies, evaluate whether investing in RMMs makes sense? 

Renee Hartmann: Yeah, I think one of the things that we’re hearing from brands a lot is, the cost of digital media, and the cost of digital advertising is going up a lot. You know, I think it used to be, very easy for brands to just go on, like I said, like all the social media networks use influencers, and they were able to, generate pretty high returns right away. I think that those days are, are pretty much gone now. It’s becoming a lot harder, it’s more expensive, and those social media networks don’t have as much data. So I think from a brand standpoint, if there is a a retailer that does have a retail media network how can you use them to, number one, to promote your product, number two, to learn more about your customer. and number three, to personalize your offerings in a way that will really resonate with that target consumer. So I would definitely encourage brands to, and their agencies to really seek out retail media networks, it provides this, sort of a streamlined way that feel can feel very natural if it’s done in a good way. So I think it provides, a deeper level of engagement than say, some of your more traditional advertising methods would have.

Adrian Tennant: The second of your three rules is New Ways To Sell. US Grocery Chain, the Fresh Market is one of the firms that’s launched a retail media network. The chain has also seen great success with live streaming cooking shows from its stores, and is reportedly set to offer shoppable advertisements during its broadcasts. Renee, you have a chapter in Next Generation Retail focusing on the rise of livestream shopping. So can you give us an overview of the current landscape and how US retailers and brands should be thinking about live streaming’s potential? 

Renee Hartmann: Sure. I mean, I think live streaming is an area that both Deborah and I are really passionate about. it’s something that we think is, really the future of retailing. Um, when you think about blending the online and offline experience, so you. We I mentioned we both had a lot of experience in Asia. China is the behemoth when it comes to live streaming. It is,the amount of money that is generated and that the size of the market in China is just staggering. it is the way that consumers, really understand products. They get to know them, they trust the livestream hosts. It’s become kind of a form of entertainment. and it really has become one of the most dominant shopping, ways that people interact online. . when you look at the US it’s still it’s still very early days when you compare it to a market like China. it’s growing quite a bit. I think you’re seeing, all kinds of, platforms getting involved, whether it’s TikTok or Instagram or,more traditional methods like Q V C. Um, we are seeing a lot of different, providers popping up technology providers as well as platforms that are getting involved in the live streaming sector. So I think it’s still very early. and the consumers that we’ve seen, You who do like to livestream? I think there’s this perception in the US in particular that livestream customers are more like traditional home shopping customers and they’re older, but that’s not really the case. You know, we, we’ve done core site in particular’s, done a lot of research on the consumers, who do you know, livestream shopping in the us and it’s some real mix. It’s everything from. Young kids to, men to women, to people who are looking for, things like fishing online or they want to learn more about different types of products. You’ve got beauty consumers. You really have a broad range of consumers. So I think for brands that are. seeking to, to get into live streaming shopping in the us. number one, it’s a great time to test and learn. It’s not something that’s so advanced that you’re late to the game. It’s a great time to get started. it’s pretty easy to get up and running. It doesn’t cost a lot of money. I think the other misperception we see from a lot of brands, they think I’ve gotta have this huge production capability and I’ve gotta be spending all this money to be making commercial, like video content. we found that’s not the case. with Core Site we did a livestream festival called 10 10, last October 10th. And we had one brand that was on there and the, one of the best selling brands we had was this very high end, cutting board company. And the thing that was really exciting is they took people back into their workshop and showed them how it was made. They showed them what kind of wood is being used, how they put it together really the behind the scenes. And that’s what consumers are looking for, is they’re looking for this really in-depth content and they want it to be authentic. they’re not looking for overly produced commercial glossy content. They really want this, In-depth content where they can learn. So I think that’s another area that we’ve seen. you know, it is pretty easy to get up and running. it doesn’t cost a lot of money. And the other thing is, it’s a great way to educate the consumer. so you mentioned, fresh market. we’ve seen a lot of interests,in the food sector in particular because you can do things like have chefs on, you can talk about, you can do wine tasting, you can do, cook alongs. There’s a lot of really fun content and engaging content. And you think about, the rise. even shows on Netflix, like Chef and all the cooking shows, if you can make it so simple that you’re watching somebody make a recipe and you can buy everything from your recipe right there in one basket, in one click, that makes things a lot easier. And it’s a way to really engage people and create these types of experiences where it is really that experiential shopping. So I think that’s something that. that we really see is a, is a new and innovative, like you said, one of the three ways to sell things. it’s a whole new way to sell and it is something that’s pretty easy to do. and just we think it’s kind of a no-brainer for brands to get started.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned that the fresh market plans to incorporate shoppable ads into its live stream. So do you foresee shoppable ads and social media influences content converging in the future?

Renee Hartmann: I think so. I mean, I think that’s one of the things, there’s a company that we, that we know called nio, which is, an online,they’re enabling influencers to become retailers themselves, right? So I think the next step is influencers are not just about putting content out there, but. You know, consumers really trust them and they wanna get a curated selection of products that they have, and really be able to kind of buy the products that the influencer talking about. So we see it getting into that next level of how do you get to conversion, and it’s the same thing as live streaming. When you see the content. you wanna be able to buy right away. So I think this kind of content, and the overlap in between the two, whether it’s an ad, whether it’s a live stream, whether it’s an influencer post, as long as it’s engaging and interesting and relevant to the consumer. I think these are natural ways that the consumer is interested in it. I think the key point is the same as retail media network, which is how do you make it something that’s authentic, that doesn’t feel intrusive to the consumer and something they wanna buy. And if you can do it in that, Then absolutely. I think that’s where that convergence between content and commerce will become even stronger.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages. 

Renee Hartmann: Hi, I’m Renee Hartman, co-author of the book, Next Generation Retail: How To Use New Technology To Innovate For The Future. It’s a practical guide to retail marketing tech, including livestream shopping, quick commerce, and retail media networks. In it, we show you how to create compelling content, drive conversions in digital and physical channels, and monetize data, all while maintaining customer trust. As an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 25% on a print or electronic version of Next Generation Retail by using the exclusive promo code BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free paperback and ebook bundle offer. When you order directly from Kogan. Page, shipping is always free to the US and to the UK, which also helps us authors. So to order your copy of Next Generation Retail, go to That’s K-O-G-A-N, P-A-G-E dot com. Thank you.

Michael Solomon: Hi, I’m Michael Solomon. During my 40-year career as a marketing professor, consumer psychologist, speaker, and author, I’ve had the privilege of developing strategies with many Fortune 500 companies to help them connect with their customers. Now, you can have access to these strategies through my online course. It’s called Engage: how to turn your board customers into brand fanatics. I’ll show you how to apply years of research on consumer psychology to your brand or business. And as an unclear focused listener, you can receive a hundred dollars discount on your enrollment. Just follow the link in the transcript for this podcast on Bigeye’s website and use the provided coupon code to take advantage of this offer. I hope you’ll join me for Engage to learn how to turn board customers into brand fanatics!

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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Renee Hartmann, the co-author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Next Generation Retail: How To Use New Technology To Innovate For The Future. As the future of retail evolves, retailers will have new things to sell and new ways of selling them. Renee, the third of your three rules addresses new ways to deliver them. What factors do you believe will be the most significant in terms of serving customers?

Renee Hartmann: Yeah, we see three main ways. and this, again, I think when you talk about the consumers and how things have changed,number one thing we want people to, consumers are wanting products that are sustainable and they want the selling methods to be sustainable too. So sustainability is becoming much more important to the consumer. and we think the days of retailers and brands not thinking about sustainability at all or almost over, and consumers are really looking for that. So sustainable is number one. the next one is really personalized. So people are, the consumers are really wanting a personalized experience. This is where I think the convergence of offline and online and all this retail data that we talk about. how do you drive something to a consumer that feels very personal to them, that’s unique and relevant to them. and the third thing is experiential. I think that’s one area that. You know, when we think about, COVID is a great example. it became so easy to buy everything online. so convenience wise, you may as well buy online, but you’re still missing that experiential component of it. And that’s why everybody’s going back to retail, right? they want the entertainment value. They want the experiential value. And for retailers, they have to be able to provide that. It’s not just, I’m going to a retail store to buy something. It’s not a function. experience anymore. It really has to become, it has to become something that is fun, that’s relevant and it’s entertaining and is experiential. So those are the three things, sustainable, personalized, and experiential.

Adrian Tennant: Sustainability is the focus of a chapter in Next Generation Retail, and you acknowledge that It can be daunting to navigate the sheer volume of issues that fall under the umbrella of sustainability. You also cite a statistic from which finds corporations that plan with climate change in mind secure an 18% higher return on investment than those that do not. Renee, what are some ways retailers can achieve more sustainable business practices?

Renee Hartmann: Yeah. We talk about different ways that that companies can look at sustainability and I think one of the people that we interviewed through the book, his name was Andrew Sullivan, and he really made some good points. He focuses on sustainability and his point is you have to look across every aspect of all of the business. It’s not just one person’s job, it’s not a sustainability officer’s job. It has to be something that goes back to the CEO and has to be infused throughout the organization. and so we we encourage everybody to look at all different aspects of it. So in the retail store, it could be everything from, looking at the types of lights that you have in your retail environment. How can you make lower energy use? How can you reduce waste in your packaging? we talked to another, interviewee who talked about,automated, checkout and how that freed up time from the checkout person to go out and do shopping. And then when you deliver it to the customer, you’re using route that are using less, energy. You’re using electric cars, things like that. So even everything down to you know, delivery can become a more sustainable option. and then looking at,the product, we always talk about looking at the product backwards, right? um, look through the circular part of your supply chain. would people wanna reuse the product? We’re seeing, retailers all the time, or actually starting their own areas for resale of product themselves. So people who have used the product and wanna sell it back, they’re actually creating marketplaces for that themselves. and of course, obviously going through the entire supply chain, right? In terms of how can you reduce waste, how can you reduce energy, how can you use better materials? we’re even seeing, we have a chapter in the book on blockchain, and we’re even seeing, people use blockchain and sustainability efforts as well. So I think it’s really examining every single piece of the business and it, and really just thinking through how can everything be more sustainable. and then we always talk about reporting it, right? You know, one of the areas that we’ve, we talked about is some brands I think are a little bit shy to talk about their sustainability efforts because they’re worried about greenwashing, they’re worried about consumer backlash. But really, the more that you’re reporting to your employees, to your customers, to your suppliers, it keeps you accountable. And so really having these methods to track your sustainability efforts, and of course nobody can get there overnight. but to have an ongoing vision and something that’s created from the top of the organization is really important. So,sustainability, one of the things that makes it so hard, I think, is that it really can be affected through every part of the organization. And it really does take, a sort of an organization-wide, real mandate to make it become a reality.

Adrian Tennant: In the book Influencing Shopper Decisions, also published by Kogan Page and our featured selection last April, the authors included a quotation from anthropologist Michael Donovan illustrating how successful retailers provide cues, symbols, and spaces designed to engage our cultural imagination. Donovan also defines shopping as – quote – “A central creative activity of American life, a kind of popular performance art,” – end quote. So I’m curious, Renee, as someone who works with brands on their international expansion strategies, what are some of the most important differences between markets in the West and the East in terms of the role that shopping plays in people’s lives?

Renee Hartmann: Yeah, I mean I think this is one of those areas where shopping in the East I think was really ahead of shopping in the West. I think if you’d been going to malls in Asia, even for the last. Five to 10 years. they were always more advanced than in the West, in my opinion. They were always more integrated, they were more omnichannel. even take one silly example like QR codes. QR codes have been popular in China for years and years. and that really enabled that kind of omnichannel experience. They only just became popular in the west, as a result of Covid. so I think in the East,shopping has always been entertainment. It’s always been something you do with friends. This, the malls are open late, you go eat at the malls. You go you have full kind of, you spend hours in the mall and that really becomes your entertainment. And I think that, brands, even when you look to, doing, traveling art installations in malls, doing experiential pop-up stores, really having that kind of digital experience. one thing you do see that’s a little different in the east versus the west I think is you know, lot more things like facial recognition and automated,shopping experiences, which may be some of the privacy laws in Europe and the US don’t allow some of these types of integrations, but you really see that,made to measure personalization. All of these types of really fun experiential retail, advancements that happen in the East I think are just now starting to filter into the West, and we’re starting to see, some of these types of advancements in the west as well. And I think that things like the metaverse, things like, virtual reality, online offline integration, it’s really is becoming you look at a mall like a Mall of America or American Dream in the us, having the mall as entertainment itself. that is the future I think, of malls and that is the future of retail. And I think a lot of that came from Asia and a lot of that came from the east. So I think there’s quite a lot that can be learned from looking at the east and some of the innovation and excitement that was happening there in the retail sector. It is starting to filter into the west now, and I think that’s where of course there’s cultural nuances with each one of ’em, but I think the core is keeping retail as entertainment. And I like the quote you mentioned about retail as performance art. in China there are art malls. You know, when you go into a mall it is like a fun experience. You’ve got, crazy statues and you’ve got interactive art displays. that it is art to a certain extent and I think that way of having it something that you can experience and feel, is really important to the retail environment.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. 

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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Renee Hartmann, the co-author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Next Generation Retail: How To Use New Technology To Innovate For The Future. What are some of the most important factors for US-based retailers or brands considering international expansion?

Renee Hartmann: Yeah. I think the most important thing, and it’s, it sounds obvious, but you know, To, to understand what the consumer knows about your brand, to understand what they value. I mean, I think one of the things, that’s interesting and not every brand, always realizes, they may think, Hey, I’m really popular in the US for X, y, and z reasons. I assume I’ll be popular in another market for that same reason. And that’s often not the case. You know, it might be one product that you hear, a product it might be, the country that you’re from, that’s an issue. Um there was a lot of brands, for instance, when they went into China, people knew them from maybe from Gossip Girl or from certain types of movies or TV shows. So I think the first thing is to really understand, a, does the consumer know you at all? And b y and then c I would say would be, what are the trends that are happening in that market? And then how do you, how do you adapt to those? Cause I think one of the mistakes we see, make is that they get, a little bit,I don’t know if arrogant is the word, but they think that whatever worked in their home market’s gonna work in another market. And that’s often not the case. Um, sometimes people are lucky that way, but often it’s not. so I think really being able to understand, how you can localize your branding efforts, how you can localize your marketing efforts in a way that is authentic and doesn’t lose who you are, you don’t wanna change too much,really finding those nuances of what’s gonna connect with the consumer. I think whenever you go to a new market, the hardest part is creating consumer demand. Everything else is easy, right? Everything else, yes, there’s new social channels and e-commerce channels and sales methods and government restrictions and everything. But if you don’t have the consumer demand, the rest of it is, irrelevant and everything else can be done. So the core is really understanding, does the consumer want your brand and your product? and if they don’t already, how can you make them do that? So I think the, that’s really the most important area.

Adrian Tennant: And Renee, do you have any favorite consumer research methods for identifying those nuances of local markets?

Renee Hartmann: I think the best ones I’ve seen are ones that, really connect with the consumers on the platforms that they use. So I’ll take China again as an example. social media platforms in China are completely different than they are in the US. So you have, areas like Little Red Book, which is a type of, social platform that doesn’t even exist in the West. it’s almost like Yelp for brands, right? And so it’s about really understanding, what people are saying about you and talking about you. So I think, connecting with people, whether it’s doing surveys on a platform like WeChat, whether it’s, going to areas that people are interested. And I think also taking some of the cultural nuances, in context. So for instance, in some markets, focus groups don’t work as well. It’s better to do one-on-one interviews because of some of the social dynamics. So I think it’s really also localizing the market research techniques, and connecting with people in ways that are really relevant to them in their everyday life.

Adrian Tennant: A year ago, the Metaverse, Web3, and NFTs were all in the news quite a lot. But in 2023, we seem to be hearing less about these topics. Renee, should retailers and brands still be thinking about them?

Renee Hartmann: Should brands be doing NFTs? This is something that I keep hearing from people or NFTs dead. is it relevant anymore? and I think the answer is,we definitely think that brands should continue to be using, NFTs and engaging with the Metaverse. I think, sometimes these types of things like Metaverse, NFTs, they go through fads, and people become up and down with them. But I think at the heart of it, it’s really about engaging consumers in new ways. I was just talking to somebody today about their kids using Roblox and how they can buy virtual items. And I think that it really is the future in terms of how young consumers can really engage with brands and find new ways to understand them, whether it’s from metaverse experiences, whether it’s buying digital items. I talked to another company the other day that’s doing NFTs that are connected with phone numbers, so the consumer sometimes doesn’t even know it is an NFT. So I think there are a lot of different ways that brands and retailers can get involved in the Metaverse and NFTs in particular. And despite some of the news and the ups and downs with Bitcoin and all of the other currencies and markets, it is definitely an area that we see – when you look at Web3 in general – is definitely something that we see staying and we encourage brands to continue to get involved.

Adrian Tennant: We can’t discuss using new technologies without considering artificial intelligence. AI is certainly having a moment in popular culture, but in what kinds of ways is it already disrupting long-established practices in retail?

Renee Hartmann: There’s so many different parts of artificial intelligence and I think what’s getting a lot of press right now obviously is things like ChatGPT and like these types of virtual intelligence and artificial intelligence and how that’s getting involved. But I think, there’s so many different things we’ve seen. We talk about the CORE framework in the book, which is everything from Communication to Optimizing pricing, to Rationalizing inventory, and then creating Experiential retail. And I think that’s something that we’re seeing quite a lot, whether it’s things like chatbots and every time you go online, the quick customer service and the way that consumers are engaging with brands and virtual assistance personalization that’s coming through. I was actually just at EUROSHOP and I saw there is a company that was using AI to optimize pricing and grocery stores based on the expiration date. So I think you’re even seeing things like how to use dynamic pricing, how do you take data to make better decisions and optimize things like supply chain and inventory? So there’s so many different ways. I think there’s the kind of fun and creative ones that get the spotlight, but actually, when you get back into supply chain and some of the real data-intensive ways, it’s how do you take immense amounts of data and then how do you process it intelligently in ways that maybe humans couldn’t do before? I think that’s where a lot of the power comes from, really, disrupting the retail environment.

Adrian Tennant: You’ve included several examples of how well-known retailers apply AI and machine learning to their operations. Thinking about the examples you included in the book, were there one or two that really surprised you or stood out?

Renee Hartmann: There are so many great ones. One of the ones that resonated with me, I’ve just been renovating a house and just moved, and I think a lot of people during the pandemic did as well. One of the ones we talked about was Wayfair having a visual search where you could submit photos of items that you like and then find similar items on Wayfair. So when you think about retail, so much of it is the seeing and the exploring. And sometimes it is hard as a shopper, I think, to know exactly what you’re looking for. It’s not necessarily something you’re searching for. And that’s something where the browsing online sometimes can be a little bit different than say, like, when you’re walking around a retail store and having that sense of discovery. So I thought that was a really fun way to take AI and look at it from a visual standpoint, almost using different senses that you would use from online shopping. So I thought that was one just personally resonates to me. Cause it’s something I’ve been doing a lot of is walking around furniture stores and vintage stores and trying to find fun things. I think obviously one that everybody has used a lot is those chatbots and the ability to even when I’m just online shopping and things like that, whether we talked about Lowe’s and Kroger’s, and Nike. But being able to create that really quick response and being able to answer people’s questions and really, streamlining the customer service experience for consumers in ways that I think are really, making everyday shopping a lot better for people.

Adrian Tennant: Renee, what do you hope readers will take away from Next Generation Retail?

Renee Hartmann: Yeah, I think that, the hope I feel is it doesn’t need to be so complicated. I think people think about innovation and technology, and they sometimes don’t know where to start. so I think one of the things that we really tried to do in the book is to be really practical about, how can you do these, any of these, every chapter, every topic we talked about, whether it’s NFTs or blockchain, Online payments or supply chain or retail media. we tried to break it down into some very easy and tactical things that people can do to just get started. I think so much of this, it really is just starting out, like I said, I was just at a trade show in Germany, and the amount of new technology is overwhelming. I think it took up 20 different huge warehouse rooms. There’s so much out there. But it really just is about getting started, trying new things, seeing what works making incremental improvements, and then iterating. So I think that’s the key lesson and the key area that I hope people will take away is just dip your toe in and start trying things. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary. They don’t have to cost a lot. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It’s just a matter of trying things and seeing how they work for your organization. And I think the other thing is, Every organization, every brand is different, and what works for one is not gonna work for the other one. So I think really being able to have that test-and-learn mentality is really important when you think about innovation.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you and your work at CLA or your book Next Generation Retail, where can they find you?

Renee Hartmann: They can find me at and I can certainly provide a link for the podcast as well.

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like a copy of Renee’s book, Next Generation Retail, you can save 25 percent on either a print or electronic version when you purchase directly from the publisher online at Just add the promo code, BIGEYE25 at the checkout. Renee, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Renee Hartmann: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been really fun.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week. Renee Hartmann, the co-author of this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Next Generation Retail. As always, you’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the unclear focus page at Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts and contributing a rating or a review. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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